Mount Laurel educational farm seeks crucial partnership to fully reopen
An educational children's farm in Burlington County is on the road to re-open after it was abruptly shut down by previous management right before the pandemic.
But to re-open PAWS Farm in Mount Laurel, volunteers say they need one crucial partnership.
Volunteers inside the farm have been working tirelessly to clean the weeds and other plant life that overgrew since it shut down in 2020.
"Everything was overgrown. There was massive amounts of trash, debris and refuse left all over the property and in all of the buildings," says Jennifer Baxter. She is on the board of trustees for Volunteers for PAWS Farm Inc., a nonprofit that's dedicated to bring the educational children's farm back to life.
Mount Laurel Township, which owns the property, gave the group the OK to go in and bring it back to life.
The farm abruptly closed in 2020 when the Garden state Discovery Museum announced it would no longer be able to run it.
The 200-plus animals were sent to other farms across the state.
Then the pandemic hit, which delayed efforts to save the farm.
"It was devastating to see it close up, so I'm really thrilled that it's opening up," says Sharon Murray, of the Mount Laurel Gardening Club.
The organization says as the cleanup continues, they are now moving to the next phase of reopening, which means identifying someone to come in and manage the day-to-day operations and the finances at the farm.
"We are a looking for a third party to partner with us and Mount Laurel Township," Baxter says. "The volunteers will do everything to support fundraising to provide -- hopefully, eventually -- when we bring animals back, animal feed, and maintenance and volunteer workers for the property. But it's going to require a full-time, on-site person, plus several part-time salaries that we don't have the funding for right now."
The organization sayd the educational compontent for children that the farm brings is irreplacable.
"It's gentle, it's safe for children and it's a unique experience to see how people interacted with these animals years ago, like we don't anymore," Murray says.
Volunteers for PAWS Farm will hold a fundraiser in June called "A Peek at Paws," which will give families a chance to see up close the work that's been done.